BRITTAS CASTLE


Traditional Irish Name

Brit (as) speckled (land); or Briotas/Bretesche [from the Norman French] a stockaded fort-dwelling.1


Associated Families

De Burgh/Burke.
Stepney.


Location

BaronyClanwilliam.
Civil ParishCaherconlish.
TownlandBrittas.
OS Map Ref
Sheet 14.

Protected Structure Record

Reg. No: 188.
Ref.  No: N14(57).


Description

Brittas Castle probably dates from the late 1200s.2 It sits on the left bank of the river Mulcair, and was a chief seat of de Burgh or Burke of Clanwilliam later lord barons of Brittas.

Brittas was described as once being ‘a castle of considerable strength and extent’, with a massive keep with an enclosed courtyard and ‘with flanking towers at the angles’.3

Two towers, one lower to the east of the larger tower, are shown on the 17th-century Down Survey maps.


Condition

At the end of the 19th century, large sections of the court-walls were extant; but the interior of the castle had by then been fairly gutted.

At present, only broken sections of the court wall are visible, but the main tower is (externally) in a relatively strong state or repair.


Access

The castle lies on a working farm. Permission is required.


Historical Timeline

1317:English forces and their Irish allies stationed here during the Bruce invasion of Ireland.
1410:Brittas Castle and lands are passed by Walter Burke to his son, Tibbot.
1584:Brittas is still held by the Burkes after the Desmond wars.
1600:Castle is besieged by crown forces under Carew during the Nine Years War. The Burkes eventually pledge loyalty to Elizabeth I and are granted royal protection.
1606:Sir John Burke of Brittas is captured, tried for treason and executed.
Burke was found guilty of allowing masses to be celebrated in the castle, for harbouring priests, and for refusing to embrace the Protestant religion and King James I’s supremacy.
1618:Theobald Burke, who converts to the Protestant faith, is awarded the title of Lord Brittas.
1633:Castle and lands regranted by Charles I to Lord Brittas.
1642:Lord Brittas joins the Irish Catholic Confederate forces.
1653:Lord Brittas surrenders his estate to Cromwellian forces and they garrison the castle.
1654:Lord Brittas, then around 74-years-old, dies; he was set to be be transplanted to Connacht.
1655:The Brittas estate, seized by Cromwellian authorities, contained 140 acres, with ‘two castles with a bawen’.4
1662:
(circa)
Part of the estate, then partly held by Thomas Stepney, restored to Theobald Burke, third Lord Brittas.
1688-91:Brittas, a member of the Jacobite Parliament, joins James II’s Catholic army against William of Orange. The castle is badly damaged during the conflict.

Following their defeat by Williamite forces, Brittas is attainted and his estates are again forfeited to the new Protestant establishment.

1703:The castle and lands are granted to (Thomas Stepney’s son) Joseph Stepney.

 

1 See  Ordnance Survey Field Name BooksCaherconlish parish, 287, and P.W. Joyce, Irish names of places, ii (1910), 14, 289.
2
Mike Salter, Castles of North Munster (2004), 68; Tadhg O’Keeffe, Medieval Irish Buildings, 1100–1600 (2015), 200.
3 J.G. Barry, ‘The Bourkes of Clanwilliam’ in JRSAI (1889), 201.
4 Civil Survey … Limerick, 63.


Notes

All historical information is compiled from archival material; primary sources (such as State Papers); secondary sources; plus authoritative digital sources (such as CELT). Any direct quote or a further reading suggestion is footnoted.

For queries, suggested amendments, or other relevant information, or if you would like to contribute an archival image of Brittas Castle (of which you own the copyright), please leave a comment at the bottom of the page, or email (below).


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Castle location

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